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Everyday sexism at the BBC

Are things ever going to change? We’ve known about sexism for centuries; we’ve agreed something should be done about it for decades, and yet it continues. 51% of the population of the UK is female, not that you’d know it from the BBC’s output.

The sausagefest that is the BBC.

The sausagefest that is the BBC. They’ve got ethnic minorities sorted; how about tackling the biggest, most under-represented minority of all – women?

I was looking for something to listen to today as I worked, so went to the BBC iPlayer for radio. I chose documentaries, because I can always find something new and quirky and interesting there.

After scrolling through a few pages of offerings, and listening to one on Ian Fleming and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, on page 3 I was struck by something that starkly illustrates the BBC’s problem with sexism. Each programme has a thumbnail picture accompanying it. It might represent the subject matter, or it might represent the presenter. Here’s what I noticed.

37 men in photos, including one of the back of a man’s head

1 photo of an all-boys choir, with 32 boys

7 women in photos, including one photo of a female mouth and one of a female belly dancer in silhouette

1 drawing of a female head

1 drawing showing signage for male and female figures

3 photos showing figures or body parts whose sex couldn’t be discerned (1 Anthony Gormley figure, 2 photos of a hand. They all look male to me, but I’m giving them the benefit of the doubt.)

So we see a total of 70 representations of males, and 9 of females of women. That’s 88.6% males, 11.4% females. Even taking the boy’s choir out of the equation, we are left with 37 men to 9 women. That’s a ratio of less than 1 in 5 of women to men: 19.6% women and 80.4% men.

I know this is just a snapshot and is highly unscientific, but if you try it over and over again across the BBC, it is a pattern that is repeated: male presenters, male writers, male subjects, male viewpoints dominate.

Where are the women?

A Jessie M King necklace

Last Sunday the Antiques Roadshow came from RAF Coningsby. It was filmed earlier this summer. One of the items featured was a beautiful Arts and Crafts fringe necklace in its original Liberty case, owned by a very lucky young lady. It features moonstones and baroque pearls, with decorative leaves picked out in blue-green enamel.

Arts and Crafts fringe necklace, c. 1905, in its original Liberty case. I am sure this is designed by Jessie M King.

Arts and Crafts fringe necklace, c. 1905, in its original Liberty case. I am sure this is designed by Jessie M King.

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The expert, John Benjamin, dated it from about 1905, that the blue-green were little blobs of glass set on gold (ie vitreous enamel), and called the pearls blister pearls. He said blister pearls are ‘mis-shapen white pearls, natural pearls’. My understanding (probably incorrect) is that blister pearls are those half-formed things caught under the nacreous skin of the oyster shell, whereas pearls proper, both regularly-shaped and irregularly-shaped, are free within the shell. I am more used to seeing pearls like these — irregularly-shaped proper ‘free’ pearls — described as baroque pearls. He did not attribute a designer and valued it at £3,000.

I think this necklace positively screams out Jessie M King. It’s her style, her colour palette — everything about it suggests it is her design. Jessie’s pieces were usually made with semiprecious stones, and enamel, and she used the enamelled leaf motif extensively.

Jessie M King. Opal, peridot, baroque pearl and enamel necklace, c. 1900. Sold by Van den Bosch..

Jessie M King. Opal, peridot, baroque pearl and enamel necklace, c. 1900. Sold by Van den Bosch.

Detail.

Jessie M King. Opal, peridot, baroque pearl and enamel necklace, c. 1900. Sold by Van den Bosch. Detail.

Jessie M King brooch design for Liberty & Co. Gold, moonstone and enamel. Liberty model number 1800. Sold by Tadema Gallery.

Jessie M King brooch design for Liberty & Co. Gold, moonstone and enamel. Liberty model number 1800. Sold by Tadema Gallery.

Jessie M King design for Liberty & Co. Gold, sapphire, moonstone and green enamel necklace. Sold by Van Den Bosch.

Jessie M King design for Liberty & Co. Gold, sapphire, moonstone and green enamel necklace. Sold by Van Den Bosch.

Jessie M King. Moonstone and enamel necklace.

Jessie M King design for Liberty & Co. Moonstone and enamel necklace. Sold by Van den Bosch.

Jessie M. King for Liberty & Co. Ring, gold, silver, enamel and chrysoprase. Sold by Tadema Gallery.

Jessie M. King for Liberty & Co. Ring, gold, silver, enamel and chrysoprase. Sold by Tadema Gallery.

Jessie M King for Liberty & Co. A silver and gold necklace set with moonstones within borders of blue/green enamelled leaves surrounded by gold wire wirework and gold florets. The silver chain with a gold clasp. British. Circa 1900. Size: Height of drop pendant only 4.4 cm. Width 2 cm. Width across three moonstones 11 cm. Total length around necklace 41 cm. Sold by Van den Bosch.

Jessie M King for Liberty & Co. A silver and gold necklace set with moonstones within borders of blue/green enamelled leaves surrounded by gold wire wirework and gold florets. The silver chain with a gold clasp. British. Circa 1900. Size: Height of drop pendant only 4.4 cm. Width 2 cm. Width across three moonstones 11 cm. Total length around necklace 41 cm. Sold by Van den Bosch.

Sold by Van den Bosch.

Jessie M King for Liberty & Co. Turquoise and enamel necklace. Sold by Van den Bosch.

Sold by Tadema Gallery.

Jessie M King for Liberty & Co. Moonstone and enamel brooch. Sold by Tadema Gallery.

The programme is available on the BBC iPlayer, and the segment runs from 21:00 – 24:07.

I wrote a blog post about Jessie’s jewellery designs a while ago. It has more detail of the life of this fascinating and multi-talented Scottish artist.

Wells

It’s been pretty wet and miserable here for the last few days. This is a photo I took of a rainy day in the beautiful cathedral city of Wells a few years ago. It had been a lovely sunny day, and we’d been for a long walk around the sights – the Cathedral, Vicar’s Close, Bishop’s Palace and the many beautiful secular buildings – and then the heavens opened. We went back to the car and I took this photo from inside through the windscreen as the rain pelted down. I quite like its impressionistic quality.

A rainy day in Wells.

A rainy day in Wells.

Earlier on had been like this:

 

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Vicar’s Close, Wells. Constructed between 1348 and 1430.

Wells Cathedral.

Wells Cathedral. Built between 1176 and 1490.

Wells Cathedral.

Wells Cathedral.

Wells Cathedral.

Wells Cathedral.

Wells Cathedral.

Wells Cathedral.

and then the rain blew in. I like the fact that we get such changeable weather here – there’s often drama in the skies (apart from when it’s a flat, dull, grey day – not much drama then).

If you’re a film fan, Wells is the setting for Hot Fuzz: the co-writer and director, Edgar Wright, grew up in Wells. The Cathedral was digitally removed from the film though, I think because it was too imposing and took away from the smaller parish church, the Church of St Cuthbert, that featured in the film. Some of the filming took place in the Bishop’s Palace grounds, though.

Filming locations: Wadi Rum

Chap and I went to see The Martian in 3D the other day. I’m a sucker for a space movie, and I’m also a sucker for deserts. So a space movie set on a desert planet is right up my street. And I knew from the advance publicity for the movie that large parts of it had been filmed in the Wadi Rum in southern Jordan.

The Martian, filmed in Wadi Rum in Jordan.

The Martian, filmed in Wadi Rum in Jordan.

I have a special spot in my heart for Wadi Rum, which I first visited 30 years ago. Half way through my first archaeological dig in Jordan we had a week-long break, and a group of us took the dig Land Rover and drove all around Jordan (not difficult to do as it’s a small country). We had a ball, visiting the Dead Sea, the desert palaces, driving down the King’s Highway to Kerak, and staying overnight in Petra with a bedouin, Dachlala, and his family (we had special dispensation from the Department of Antiquities – one of the perks of being an archaeologist). After Petra we drove deep into the stunning, massive grandeur of the Wadi Rum and camped there, digging hollows in the orangey red and incredibly soft sand in which to sleep and cooking our food on dried camel shit fires. During the day we went to swim in the coral reefs at Aqaba, and came back to the Wadi to sleep at night. The scale and the beauty of the place, and the absolute isolation, were so remarkable. (Only ten years later, when I last visited the Wadi in 1995, we camped again, but this time we could see the bonfires of other groups all around in the distance).

Location filming in the Wadi Rum for The Martian.

Location filming in the Wadi Rum for The Martian. Photo by Giles Keyte.

The Martian, starring Matt Damon, filmed in Wadi Rum.

The Martian, starring Matt Damon, filmed in Wadi Rum.

Matt Damon in Wadi Rum. The photo hasn't been 'Marsified' as you can see some small camel thorn seedlings.

Matt Damon in Wadi Rum. The photo hasn’t been ‘Marsified’ as you can see some small camel thorn shrubs and seedlings.

Given its striking visual impact, it’s not surprising that Wadi Rum has been used many times in Hollywood film productions. Perhaps the most famous is, of course, David Lean’s 1962 epic Lawrence of Arabia (on the way to the Wadi we drove alongside a spur of the abandoned Hejaz Railway that Lawrence and his tribesmen blew up further along the line).

Wadi Rum in Lawrence of Arabia.

Wadi Rum in Lawrence of Arabia.

It has also stood in for Mars in other sci-fi movies, such as Mission to Mars (2000), Red Planet (2000) and The Last Days on Mars (2013). Ridley Scott, the director of The Martian, had previously used Wadi Rum as an alien landscape in his 2012 film, Prometheus.

Wadi Rum, 1985.

Wadi Rum, 1985.

Wadi Rum, 1985.

Wadi Rum, 1985.

Camping out in wadi Rum, 1985.

Camping out in Wadi Rum, 1985. Our second camping spot.

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Morning in Wadi Rum, 1985. In the background our trusty Series 3 long wheel base dig Land Rover.

Hannah (or is it Ug the Cavewoman?) cooking on the camel shit fire, wadi Rum , 1985.

Hannah (or is it Ug the Cavewoman?) starting the fire using camel thorn, Wadi Rum, 1985. Pile of camel shit to the left. Hannah’s hair looking wild due to sea salt, desert wind, dust and smoke.

Waking up in Wadi Rum, 1985.

Waking up in Wadi Rum, 1985. Left to right, Hannah, Mick, Fritdjof, Carenza, Bronwen.

Happy days. I’m very lucky.

Outlander at Wilton House

One of my earlier blog posts was about Wilton House, the wonderful pile not too far from where I live belonging to the Earl of Pembroke, and its use in various films as a location.

I’ve just learned that the British-American television series Outlander has finished filming at Wilton House in the last few days. The film crew were in residence for two weeks, with Wilton House standing in for the Palace of Versailles. To fully create a French milieu, all the British furniture was moved out and appropriate French furniture moved in its place. Filming took place in the Double Cube Room, the Single Cube Room and elsewhere. The actors include Simon Callow, and the candle budget was £1000 a day!

Wilton House Double Cube Room.

Wilton House Double Cube Room.

Certainly as you drove past Wilton House you could see droves of trailers and trucks parked up inside the high estate walls. We’d wondered what was going on there, and now we know!

I haven’t seen Outlander, but apparently it’s hugely popular in the States, and has spawned something of an interest in the fashions and jewellery of the period: the Jacobite Rebellions in Scotland. These took place from 1688-1746 and the series is set in 1743.

So if any fans of the series are reading this, I have a good selection of Scottish vintage jewellery in my Etsy shop which would look just the part (click on the pictures for details):

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Fabulous Scottish craftsmanship!

Wilton House website.

Outlander official website.

Happy birthday, Hubble

Happy birthday to the Hubble Space Telescope, which today celebrates 25 years floating above us and sending back amazing images of space.

The HST was launched on board the Space Shuttle Discovery on 24 April 1990 and deployed into its orbit the following day. A flaw with the mirror was identified, leading to fuzzy images, but after a servicing mission the HST’s problem was corrected and it was soon sending back glorious, sharp images, the first of which were released by NASA on 13 January 1994.

The above video is an amazing visualisation made using data sent back by the HST of a fly through of nebula Gum 29, finishing at Star Cluster Westerlund 2.

Many years ago as a kid, I was so affected by the ending of the film Dark Star, where one of the characters ‘surfs’ on space debris. In the movie he goes down to his death, to burn up as he enters the atmosphere of a planet, but in my young imagination I always converted this to him surfing through space for eternity, seeing the wonders and marvels that at the time we could only dream of. Now, thanks to Hubble, those dreams are being magnificently realised.

Hubble Space Telescope 2014: Frontier Field Abell 2744. Photo by the magnificent, utterly wonderful NASA.

Hubble Space Telescope 2014: Frontier Field Abell 2744. Photo by the magnificent, utterly wonderful NASA.

Once again, hurrah for NASA!

There’s a fantastic album of some of Hubble’s iconic images in this NASA-curated flickr album.

(As a space nut I love that Chap and I have been together just two days shy of Hubble’s time in space. Our first kiss was on 26 April 1990 and we have been kissing ever since.)

Rings that remind me of things: Part 2

Part 2 of an occasional series. Rings in my Etsy shop that remind me of things …

Ring.

Ring.

The alien ship from Alien.

Thing: the alien ship from Alien, designed by H R Giger.

The alien ship from Prometheus.

The alien ship from Prometheus.

Part 1 was a ring that reminded me of an Iron Age hillfort

UPDATE: 28 October 2015 – the ring has now sold. Sorry!

Lost sheep, icy murders, and an immortal

Every now and then I hear a piece of music that is so distinctive that whenever I hear it subsequently I know it immediately. One of these earworms for me for a Norwegian folk song called ‘Den Bortkomne Sauen’‘The Lost Sheep’.

I first heard this melody while watching the marvellous Coen Brothers film Fargo, which was released in 1996. The main theme of the film is an adaptation by Carter Burwell of ‘Den Bortkomne Sauen’.

Such a distinctive melody, which seemed to echo so well the icy landscapes of northern Minnesotaa wintery land populated by people of Scandinavian extraction where horrible murders happen, wood chippers optional, and heavily-pregnant police chiefs doggedly pursue their man. The music stuck with me, a lovely earworm I didn’t expect to hear again.

Fast forward a few years. I listen to a lot of BBC Radio 4 while I work, and I particularly enjoy the afternoon dramas. One set of plays that grabbed me right from the start was the Pilgrim series by Sebastian Baczkiewicz, the first episode broadcast in 2008 and now five series in. The stories involve William Palmer, a 12th century immortal cursed to wander the modern British countryside, encountering faeries and demons as well as hoodies and housewives. And lo! Used in Pilgrim was ‘Den Bortkomne Sauen’, a version played by Norwegian musician Annbjørg Lien on her Hardanger fiddle, accompanied by a church organ:

The later Fargo version, with its syrupy harp at first and rather overblown orchestration after the fiddle part, has wonderfully slow tempo, full of foreboding. Annbjørg’s 1994 version is plaintive and stripped-down, but at a slightly faster tempo, and I could really sense the lost sheep in the icy Nordic snowdrifts as she played. It also fitted perfectly with the theme of Pilgrim, with Palmer the lost soul condemned to wander forever.

A Hardanger fiddle, made by Knut Gunnarsson Helland. Photo by Kjetil r.

A Hardanger fiddle, made by Knut Gunnarsson Helland. Photo by Frode Inge Helland.

Annbjørg’s version is available on her album Felefeber (‘Fiddle fever’), released in 1994, and available on Amazon. Series 3 of Pilgrim was awarded the Silver Medal for the Best European Radio Drama of the Year at the Prix Europa in Berlin, and nominated for the Prix Italia Best Original Radio Drama award. It’s a great listen if you get the chance. As one other listener described it so well: ‘I love the way one world settles seamlessly in-between the cracks of another’, and in that same post Sebastian has confirmed that Series 6 and 7 have been commissioned, hurrah!

And then earlier this year, I was delighted to see/hear that the title track of the 2014 television series adaptation of Fargo, which I hugely enjoyed, had nods to ‘Den Bortkomne Sauen’ and its use in the original film:

I haven’t seen it yet, but apparently ‘Den Bortkomne Sauen’ also crops up in the Norwegian tv series Lilyhammer (and no, that’s not a typo). I am definitely going to catch up on this one as it is a Norway-set mash-up of The Sopranos (my all-time favourite tv series) and Scandinoir, with a good dash of comedy thrown in, and stars Steven Van Zandt as Frank, an Italian-American mafioso relocated by the Federal Witness Protection Program to Lillehammer. Frank even picks up a lost sheep in the very first episode, so I read.

Update 22 December 2014: A new series of Pilgrim has just started this afternoon on Radio 4. The Beeb hasn’t exactly gone overboard with publicising it, as the first I heard about it was when I was listening to the radio and it started! But hurrah, more, new Pilgrim!

Favourite websites: Britain From Above

My heart is in the past, and that is why I love this website: Britain From Above. In 2007 English Heritage, the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland (RCAHMS), and the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales (RCAHMW) acquired the historic oblique aerial photography archive of Aerofilms, a company set up in 1919 for commercial photography from the air. Usually the photos were taken for clients, maybe to establish the location of a building plot within the landscape, or to show the progress of a large construction site or the condition of a property, or as views to be sold to postcard manufacturers, but they have other significances too: the most important part of the collection spans the years from 19191953, and document a now-lost England, Wales and Scotland (sadly Northern Ireland is not part of the project). Currently there are over 96,000 digitised images in the collection.

Padstow, Cornwall. July 1930.

Padstow, Cornwall. July 1930.

I can—and do—lose hours on the Aerofilms website. If you register as a member (it’s very easy to do so, and free), you are able to zoom in on the photographs. The negatives have been scanned at such a high resolution that the tiniest details become clearly visible. They show snapshots of a long-lost Britain: stooks of wheat in a field after harvest; horse-drawn ploughs; airmeets for the dashing 1920s and 1930s aviators where planes are simply landed in a suitable flat field; steam engines puffing along pre-Beecham railway linesfilm sets from the 1930s; even the R-101 on its first test flight.  You can search by date, by co-ordinate, or by placename.

Salisbury Cathedral, 1933.

Salisbury Cathedral, May 1933.

The project encourages users to contribute information on places by tagging the images or adding data, photos, videos or links in a free text area. There are galleries which include all the images taken on a single flight, and even a gallery for so-far unidentified images, where the information accompanying them is lost or incorrect, and members have helped successfully re-attribute many of the photos in the collection. Some of the photos are on glass plate negatives which have been damagedyet another reminder of a lost time.

Many of the photos are of cities and built-up areas, but as my heart is in the countryside as well as in the past, I tend to stick to looking at the photos of rural areas.

An unlocated country house and countryside.

An unlocated country house and countryside. July 1938.

Not a real castle - an unlocated film set for a so-far unidentified film.

Not a real castle—an unlocated film set for a so-far unidentified movie. November 1928.

I have used Britain From Above for my archaeological research work: sometimes I undertake projects where I have to find out as much as I can about a particular area or site, and how it has developed over time. For this I will use documentary sources (books and articles, plus written documents such as letters, wills, diaries, estate accounts etc), maps and plans, drawings, paintings and sketches, and where available, photographs. The Aerofilm vertical photos at 1:10,000 scale are an amazing resource for identifying landscape features such as earthworks, and the oblique photos on Britain From Above are also very useful as they are often taken from a much lower altitude and so have much more detail. Earlier this year I worked on a project for the history of a house and plot near to Hampton Court Palace in Richmond upon Thames, London: the Aerofilm photos provided great details about its development from the 1920s onwards.

Hampton Court Palace, Hampton Court Park and environs, Hampton Court Park, 1948.

Hampton Court Palace, Hampton Court Park and environs, April 1948.

Britain From Above is a fantastic resource (especially for schools) and a complete time-sink. Once I log on, that’s it for a couple of hours …

Filming locations: Wilton House

I’ve been meaning to write about Wilton House for a while, but was spurred on today when I sold a little brooch in my Etsy shop. I sent a thank-you notecard with the order, one from a set I’d bought many years ago from the Wiltshire Records Office (as was: now the Wiltshire and Swindon History Centre), and the one I chose featured a late 18th century engraving of Wilton House:

Wilton House. Late 18th century engraving.

Wilton House. Late 18th century engraving, showing the south front of the house on the left and the Palladian Bridge on the right.

(Or perhaps more accurately, an engraving of a couple of lovely trees and a party of people, with a section of Wilton House and the Palladian Bridge lurking in the background.)

I regularly drive past the impressive gates of Wilton Houseso regularly that I’ve almost stopped noticing them. Not an easy feat: just look at them! Isn’t it terrible to take something so spectacular so for granted?

The impressive gates to Wilton House. Photo by MrsCommons.

The impressive gates to Wilton House. Photo by MrsCommons.

Unlike many of the other grand houses I’ve written about, Wilton House is still a family home, the seat of the Earls of Pembroke for the last 400 years. The first building on the site was a priory founded in c. 871 AD; the first Earl of Pembroke took possession of the site in 1542. Relatively little of the first, Tudor house survives: what is visible today is mostly the Palladian building of the 1630s and 1640s, designed with the involvement of Inigo Jones, and later alterations by James Wyatt in the early 19th century.

The south front of Wilton House. Photo by John Chapman.

The south front of Wilton House. Photo by John Chapman.

Wilton House, south and east fronts. Photo by Henry Kellner.

Wilton House, south and east fronts. Photo by Henry Kellner.

Wilton House, east front. Photo by Mike Searle.

Wilton House, east front, with the Tudor tower in the centre. Photo by Mike Searle.

The interiors of Wilton House are sumptuous, and among the state rooms designed by Inigo Jones are the Single Cube Room (measuring 30 feet (9.14 m) long, wide and high, and the Double Cube Room, which is 60 feet (18.29 m) long and 30 feet (9.14 m) wide and high.

Wilton House, the Double Cube Room.

Wilton House, the Double Cube Room.

The grounds and gardens are beautiful, with one of only a handful of Palladian bridges in the country, built over the River Nadder.

Wilton House, the Palladian Birdge. Photo by Mike Searle.

Wilton House, the Palladian Bridge. Photo by Mike Searle.

Such stunning locations have not surprisingly been used a lot in movie and television filming.

There is a much more comprehensive list on the Wilton House website location filming page.

A scene from Pride and Prejudice filmed at Wilton House in the Double Cube Room.

A scene from Pride and Prejudice filmed at Wilton House in the Double Cube Room.

Update 10 August 2015: I’ve just learned that the television series Outlander has just finished two weeks’ filming at Wilton House, which is standing in for the Palace of Versailles. Apparently the British furniture and furnishings were moved out, and appropriate French ones were moved in for the duration of the filming. Plus the candle budget was £1000 a day! Simon Callow was one of the actors.